Conferences

Award Winning Poster about Inuit Health by Alexandra Sawatzky

Contributing to our series on award winning poster presentations, this beautifully designed poster was presented by Dr. Alex Sawatzky at the 2016 Labrador Research Forum and the 2016 ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. At both of these conferences, Alex won awards in the poster competition.

Through this poster, Alex presents work that she conducted in collaboration with Nunatsiavut Inuit to identify pathways for achieving and sustaining good wellbeing.

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Award Winning Poster

2016 Labrador Research Forum & 2016 ArcticNet ASM

Award Winning Poster: Jacqueline Middleton

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Congratulations to Jacqueline Middleton for winning the poster prize at the Labrador Research Forum in Happy Valley - Goose Bay in May 2019!

In Jacquie’s poster, she explores the role of community-identified metrics and modifiers that matter in a changing climate.

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Award Winning Poster

Labrador Research Forum 2019

Computer Science Meets Public Health: 2018 CPHAZ Symposium

Written by Isaac Bell The Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses (CPHAZ) held their 2018 symposium in Rozanski Hall at the University of Guelph this past Friday (June 8th). The keynote speaker at the symposium was Dr. Craig Stephen, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan and executive director of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. Harper Lab collaborators Dr. Dan Gillis and MSc student Nic Durish, from the school of computer science, were also featured presenters.

Dr. Stephen’s talk, entitled ‘Can OneHealth Save the World?’,set the tone for the day’s agenda, with themes of systems-thinking and transdisciplinarity continuously emerging across a range of topics. He challenged us to reconsider our perceptions of health by emphasizing the interplay of humans and the so-called natural environment. For instance, should the health of a salmon population be defined as simply having enough fish for humans to kill at a steady rate? Salmon provide numerous ecosystem services - the effects of which undoubtedly benefit humans - so ascribing a definition of health based on short-term economic returns may prove harmful in the not-so-long term.

In the following session, Dr. Gillis spoke to the ‘Potential Health Aspects of the Digital Divide’. Focusing on Rigolet, an Inuit community in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, Gillis highlighted how dialup-level internet speeds and the absence of cellphone service can serve as a barrier to accessing information, collecting data, and addressing health concerns. Rigolet is representative of much of Inuit Nunangat in this respect, where the digital divide is yet another aspect in which primarily Indigenous communities face continued disparities when compared to national standards. In response, Gillis’ research is undertaking a two-step approach: the first step is to quantify the extent of the digital divide using strategically placed Raspberry Pi’s (essentially mini computers) to measure upload and download speeds. The second step is to connect Northern communities to the internet using a technology called RightMesh (www.rightmesh.io). An immediate benefit of this initiative would be, for example, the ability for residents to deposit cheques via their mobile phones, as opposed to paying a deposit fee at the local grocery store.

Nic Durish, a masters student with Dr. Gillis, presented a poster on ‘A Community-Led Approach to Contextualizing Gamification’. This work is centered around the eNuk program (www.enuk.eco), whose “mobile and web applications allow users to track and share changes in weather, climate, environment, wildlife, and plants, as well as the resulting cultural, physical, and mental health impacts”[1]. eNuk, while still in the development phase, is being piloted in Rigolet led by local researchers Inez Shiwak and Charlie Flowers, alongside Ashlee Cunsolo, Sherilee Harper, and Dan Gillis, and its usage will be facilitated by the RightMesh network. After the lunch break, Nic participated in the 2-minute student challenge, and delivered an excellent speech to win third place (and $100!) out of all the contestants. Congrats to Nic and Dr. Gillis, and thanks to the CPHAZ organizers for administering yet another successful symposium!

To view all of the conference presentations, click here.

References:

[1]Durish, N. et al. A Community-Led Approach to Contextualizing Gamification. Poster presented at: 3rd CPHAZ Symposium; 2018 Jun 8; Guelph, Ontario.

Reflecting on the Arctic Change Conference

Written by Jacqueline Middleton, PhD Candidate This year’s annual ArcticNet meeting (Arctic Change 2017) was held in the historical Quebec City, QC, from December 11-15, 2017. The international conference hosted Arctic researchers, stakeholders, and community representatives from across the North. Over 60 topical sessions and more than 350 posters across disciplines encouraged learning and discussion among attendees. The venue also promoted relationship building as it conveniently provided space for side meetings necessary for project partners to collaborate.

Once again, a fantastic Student Day was held with a focus on ‘International Cooperation and Collaboration in Arctic Research’, and had its inaugural ‘Elevator Pitch’ competition, where students from across disciplines were challenged to engage audiences with a one-minute oral presentation on their poster. The Harper Lab’s own Anna Manore participated in this competition – presenting on her Master’s work with the PAWS project on shellfish contaminants in Iqaluit.

The Harper Lab contributed a number of oral and poster presentations, showcasing our research group’s work on environmental health surveillance and monitoring, mental wellbeing, as well as water and food security.

After an engaging week learning about the forefront of Arctic research, the conference ended with a beautiful banquet where awards and acknowledgements were presented, including PhD candidate Alex Sawatzky who won first place in the Health and Social Sciences category in the graduate student poster competition! The evening closed with a fantastic performance by Iqaluit artists The Jerry Cans. It was a privilege and a tremendous pleasure to participate and attend Arctic Change 2017. The Harper Lab can’t wait for next year!

 

Lessons from the Labrador Research Forum: Truth, Respect and Reciprocity, Humility, & (Re)framing Research as (Re)conciliation

Written by Alexandra Sawatzky, PhD Candidate Between April 30 and May 3, Jacquie, Mel, and I were privileged to attend the first biennial Labrador Research Forum in the Upper Lake Melville Region of Labrador. This gathering involved the communities of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Sheshatshiu First Nation, and North West River, and engaged the three Indigenous nations of this region: the Innu, Nunatsiavut Inuit, as well as NunatuKavut Inuit. Over 150 delegates, including researchers, government representatives, community leaders and organizations, and the broader public came together to engage in dialogue and co-learning surrounding research in the North, by the North, for the North.

The Forum kicked off with an afternoon of cultural activities in Sheshatshiu First Nation, including beading, sewing, and snow shoe making. These activities, together with the opening ceremony at the beautiful Sheshatshui Ussiniun Youth Centre, instilled a strong sense of community among the attendees that set the tone for the rest of the Forum.

This Forum was structured differently to more conventional research gatherings, with presentation sessions containing a 5 minute research outline, followed by a 10-minute discussion with the audience. This led to engaging, dynamic sessions that encouraged deeper dialogue, as well as many opportunities for continued dialogue outside of the session during coffee breaks. As an audience member, I felt there were more opportunities to be an active participant within the session, and more space for deeper listening and engagement with the ideas and topics.

Grounding these ideas and topics were several intellectually and spiritually stimulating plenary panel discussions. The first plenary of the Forum was comprised of a panel of Indigenous leaders from across the region, who discussed their views on research as reconciliation and challenged the conventional understandings of the words “research” and “reconciliation.” These words carry great weight, and we have a responsibility to unpack and understand their connotations in order to use them effectively and with an awareness of their history. This first plenary, and all of the plenaries, presentations, and discussions that followed, emphasized the importance of our distinct contributions to research as reconciliation, which is premised on core values of truth, respect, and humility.

Truth

Starting from a place of truth, we can work towards reconciliation. President Todd Russell of the NunatuKavut Community Council emphasized this point in the first plenary panel, as he explained that pathways toward research as reconciliation must be developed in partnership with Indigenous peoples, partnerships wherein the research community understands its own truth, its own place.

Respect and reciprocity

Practicing respectful partnerships with people, plants, and animals can help move research forward in a good way – towards reconciliation. This idea was explored through a plenary on Caribou and people in Labrador, where the panelists described how hunters should position themselves as caretakers of the animals they choose to hunt, and engage in partnerships with these animals. These types of partnerships are also important in the research community, where there is a long history of researchers viewing people, plants, and animals merely as “subjects of study,” rather than respecting them as partners in research endeavors. Cultivating respectful partnerships requires researchers to position themselves as caretakers of data, as explained by Dr. Margaret Kovach in her keynote address titled: “Indigenous research, Indigenous methodologies, and the power of Indigenous knowledges in informing research practice.” Dr. Kovach went on to say that the word “data” in Latin means gift. The knowledge and stories shared by Indigenous peoples through research partnerships should be understood and accepted as gifts, which connects to the responsibility of all those involved in research to practice and uphold respectful, reciprocal partnerships.

Humility

The importance of cultural humility was also introduced in the “Research as Reconciliation” plenary, and was frequently revisited throughout the Forum. In research, cultural humility involves reflecting on where we are coming from as we enter into research partnerships, and where we hope to go together with that research. Moreover, cultural humility involves coming to the table with an open mind, as well as with the willingness to step back from the table every so often to listen and learn. We must be mindful of the questions we ask, and aware of the words and language we use to ask those questions. We must accept the value of the answers we receive and the lessons we learn from asking those questions – beyond accepting knowledge, we must value that knowledge. In reflecting on these ideas with Mel and Jacquie, Mel noted that she was particularly impacted by President Todd Russell (NunatuKavut Community Council) questioning the term “higher education,” as well as the ways in which we determine who is an “expert.” Jacquie and I felt similarly to Mel in that President Russell’s words reminded us that the research we do involves knowledge systems and worldviews that we have very little understanding and lived experiences of.

(Re)framing research as (re)conciliation

Participants were encouraged to critically reflect on how we frame “research as reconciliation” through unpacking the meaning of each of those terms. Unpacking these terms from a place of truth, respect, and humility is crucial in order to understand the role research has played, and can continue to play, in colonization of Indigenous peoples and lands. The plenaries, keynotes, presentations, and workshops at this Forum encouraged further explorations of the ways in which “research” transcends beyond academia to involve the communities, governments, and environments within which the research takes place. Furthermore, many panelists and presenters reiterated the fact that “reconciliation” needs to be understood as more than just a buzzword. Reconciliation involves action. Part of this action involves coming together as community, through opportunities like this Forum, to discuss and develop pathways toward reconciliation through research. Ultimately, moving towards and along these pathways requires a commitment to cultivating and sustaining relationships premised on truth, respect, and humility.

Ugandan Team Meeting: Climate Change and Indigenous Food Systems, Food Security, and Food Safety Project

Written by Jacqueline Middleton, PhD StudentOn February 20th, Ugandan team members of the larger “Climate Change and Indigenous Food Systems, Food Security, and Food Safety” project met at McGill University, in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Principal investigators (PIs), project managers, students, and research assistants (RAs) from the Ugandan research team united to discuss how best to understand and address Indigenous food security in the context of climate change in Uganda.

Over the 3 day workshop, goals and themes were shared, explained, then further carved out as Climate Change IFS3 plans its next steps. Not only were students and RAs invited to these preliminary discussions, we were given the empowering opportunity to share our knowledge, perspectives, and expectations. We were asked what we would like to see come out of Climate Change IFS3 over the next 5 years, not just as students and RAs, but importantly, as team members working with communities to realize meaningful research. On day 2, students and RAs broke off from the larger group to identify our priorities as a diverse network of researchers, and flesh out a presentation for the PIs the following morning. Over the day we discussed a broad range of needs and interests including, fostering cross site connections, equitable training and development opportunities for students and RAs involved in the project, and best practices to support our safety and wellbeing. We discussed how these ideas may be realized including: a mentorship program; skills training and workshops; fieldwork support (e.g. risk assessments, first aid training); and an intranet site to house a metadata repository, experiential blog posts, etc., in an aim to increase communication, transparency, and relationships across all universities and regions involved.

No trip to Montreal would be complete without indulging in its diverse cuisine. Following our day 2 discussions, the entire group reconvened at an authentic Haitian restaurant, Agrikol, whose beautiful décor, and spectacular food, served as a warm escape from the city. With food comas setting in, we headed to bed before our third, and final day together. Students and RAs opened the morning with a presentation, followed by uninterrupted discussion time with PIs and project managers. After tying up some loose ends, our official business was over, and we shared a final lunch, and afternoon activity together. It provided a valuable opportunity to cement the relationships developed over the workshop days with new supervisors, mentors and colleagues.

I am incredibly grateful to have set-off my PhD studies with the Climate Change IFS3 meeting. The opportunity to connect with peers and colleagues is one of my greatest resources as a graduate student. I feel grounded and empowered as I see where my own project and interests fall within Climate Change IFS3, as well as larger international goals for human health. Moreover, I am excited to be moving forward with such a brilliant team of individuals, as we strive for better research and reflexivity as a network.

 

People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, Social Justice

Sherilee Harper and Shuaib Lwasa were invited speakers at the People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, Social Justice Symposium, at Washington University in St Louis.  Here are some select photos courtesy of Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar6_qD4Y9qw#action=share

 

 

 

EcoHealth Posters at ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting

Written by Sherilee Harper The poster session is one of my favourite aspects of the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meetings, and this year was no exception.  Of all the conferences that I have participated in, the ArcticNet poster session is among the best attended and most engaging poster sessions.

Our research group had a number of posters presented at this conference, showcasing work that ranged from climate change impacts on mental health and wellbeing, to community-based climate-health monitoring, to place-attachment and maternal health, to caribou documentaries, to one-health projects.

Members from our research group were awarded 1st and 2nd place in the Graduate Student Poster Competition!  Congratulations David and Alexandra for your 1st and 2nd place win (respectively)!